Tag Archive | God’s Use of Sin

Pouring Out – Part 2

Samuel King stood 6’4 in his worn jeans, long-sleeved dark blue work shirt with his long weathered face crowned by a greasy black hair comb over, eyes as black as his hair and his 283 pounds was solid from years of manual labor.  His feet were planted a foot apart shod in cowboy boots caked in so much grease, mud and red Georgia clay that the color was hard pressed to be named.  He towered like an angry thundercloud in the front counter area of McDonald’s, totally out-of-place among the bright yellow, white and red decor.  Sam didn’t care.  He didn’t care that he didn’t fit in, he didn’t care that people were moving as far away from him as he could and he didn’t care that the 21-year-old red-haired frail looking manager was telling him that he had to leave.

“Shut up, I ain’t leavin’ ‘til Becca gits on home.”  The man shouted, blasting spittle on the managers head.

Kevin Engle was the youngest manager McDonald’s had in this restaurant and he was frantically wishing one of the other managers was on duty instead of him.  He was rightfully frightened by Sam King and suddenly aware of why Rebecca King worried when he switched her shifts or had her work late.  She had tried to explain that her father was difficult and didn’t understand she couldn’t always get off right on time or had to work a different shift than expected.  Kevin remembered her request to use the phone one more time during the last hour of her delayed departure and his own refusal to allow her.  Well, tomorrow, Kevin decided, tomorrow Rebecca’s difficult father wouldn’t be his issue anymore because he had all intentions of letting her go.

“Sir, you can’t act…” but that was as far as Kevin’s quaking voice got as tried to regain some of his authority.  Sam’s large baseball size hand reached out from the end of his leg sized arm, seized Kevin by the collar of his uniform and tossed him aside.  Before anyone could react he had swept over the front counter, uncaring of the displays he knocked down and landed beside the terrified cashiers.  “Becca!  Becca you best be gittin on out here girl ‘cause when I find you you are in for one more whoppin’!”

Kevin recovered enough to scramble to his feet and he shot out of the restaurant with a speed the coach would have admired as he ran for the fire station less than a football field away.  When he burst into the bay, panting and panicked the firemen had a hard time understanding what Kevin’s emergency was but once they heard the name of Sam King they knew it was trouble.  One of them called the police while three others went back with Kevin to McDonald’s.  Maybe they could calm Sam down although not one of them believed it possible.

Hanging back Kevin let the firemen go in first, feeling braver standing behind them than in the lead.  The customers had cleared out and so had the employees except for the ones Sam had either pushed down or knocked out.  One was laid out visible just beneath the swinging gate leading to the back of the counters, another midway down the aisle at the grill.  Sam could be heard still calling and threatening his daughter somewhere in the back, his curses loud and ugly.

One of the firemen used his walkie-talkie to request for paramedics and the other two went to help the victims.  Leaving the walkie-talkie fireman to also deal with Sam.  “Anything back there like a gun or knives?” he asked Kevin.

Kevin’s negative response helped the fireman quickly decide to wait for the police unless Sam became a threat to someone instead of property.  Already in the distance police sirens were heard.

Sam King slammed out of the McDonald’s back door and walked right into the path of Officer Macon who had his gun out and aimed.  He was subdued after only a little resistance and handcuffed before being left in the back of the patrol car.  His anger seethed within him and he added the weight of the last half hour’s events into Becca’s account.  Although some might think him to be illiterate he was shrewd.  He knew he could not afford to allow anger to pour from him now, he would wait until he had Becca in hand before venting that, but it was hard to pull himself back into control.

Twenty minutes later on the way to the police station Sam remembered that his wife was responsible for taking Becca to and from work today and he had the impression Martha had told him something about needing to stop at her mother’s to help her with something or the other.  That meant the reason Becca wasn’t home yet was because her mother had made that extra stop.  That was okay, Sam reasoned, then they would both pay.  They would both pay dearly.

To be continued…

Purpose or Gunk?

Hospitals are sometimes cheerless places.  People learn news that alters their lives forever.  Sometimes for some people hospitals become safe zones where they feel safe.  For others they are restrictive places where personal freedoms are severely curtailed.  For others still they are almost second homes.  For Claire, who had been in the hospital 11 times in 8 years and who had finally agreed to have her leg amputated in order to cut back on her hospital visits and life threatening events from severe infections there were mixed emotions on her 12th visit.  Claire knew all the warning signs and could tell when she’d be a patient in a local hospital again, but this time came as a surprise.

Because it was a surprise Claire was angry and resentful.  She was also depressed.  Meg, one of the hospital Chaplains came to talk to Claire.  Claire, who takes her faith seriously, welcomed the opportunity.  Claire was again facing a potentially life threatening situation and after several episodes of these situations she was faith weary.   She was angry that she was hospitalized again.  Her heart kept rejecting the news.  She’d scarified a leg to help insure episodes like this didn’t happen again.  What else would be required of her?  She had a lot of questions.  She hoped the Chaplain would have some answers.

Meg was very kind, and she wanted to know Claire’s medical past.  So as simple and short as she could make it Claire condensed things to a nutshell and her pain, and that of her family were uncovered.  Claire admitted she was struggling with the purpose behind God choosing to allow this episode that threatened her life.  She admitted she couldn’t help wondering how much sacrifice God would require of her family and herself.

The Chaplain mused aloud, “You say you know God doesn’t cause you to suffer but that He does allow it and you believe He does so for a purpose.  Perhaps a purpose you can’t understand this side of Heaven but a purpose, nonetheless.  Correct?”

Claire nodded in agreement.  Meg continued, “So I wonder what if instead of believing God has a purpose in your suffering you consider instead that gunk happens in all our lives and Jesus helps us through it.  So maybe there is no purpose in your suffering, maybe it’s just Jesus helping you through the gunk.  Maybe if you shifted to thinking of your suffering as not having a purpose it would be easier to accept, it’s just something that happens.”

Meg prayed with Claire and her husband and during the long hours in the hospital Claire thought about the Chaplain’s words.  Claire had a lot of time to think when confined to a bed in the intensive care unit.  On one hand thinking that all the trials and tribulations and sufferings of the last eight years were simply “gunk” getting thrown at her and Jesus was helping her get through it seemed wrong.  Yes, Jesus was helping her through the gunk, but no that it was without purpose.

Job came to mind.  Job was allowed to have his belief in God to be tested by Satan to prove his faith would hold up to the challenge.  And in his suffering he said, “But those who suffer he delivers to their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction.”  (Job 36:15 N.IV.)  God communicated to Job during Job’s suffering and used the suffering of Job to show His glory and His might.  So, yes, Job’s suffering (physical, loss of children, loss all he owned, and the loss of the respect of his friends) had a purpose.  God proved Satan wrong.  God proved He was faithful to the one who loved Him with all their heart and soul.

Still Claire wondered, since she was no Job, what purpose could God have in her suffering?  She often cringed when people referred to her as an inspiration or called her courageous.  She didn’t want the pressure that came from those labels.  So she dug deeper into scripture, who was right?  Meg’s belief that all of what Claire had gone through was simply life’s gunk Jesus helped her through or Claire’s belief God had a purpose for all of it; a reason for her suffering and her families suffering which was right?  Peter, she found, had something to say about the subject.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”  I Peter 1:3-9

There were comfort in Peter’s words for Claire, there was assurance.  If the only reason for the sometimes ceaseless pain, the repeated life threatening events, the suffering was to refine their faith then it was worth it.  That was purpose enough.  James too had words of assurance for Claire to read.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4

Lastly Claire ended her search with words from Paul.  Paul who surely suffered persecution for the deliverance of the Gospel but who also knew physical suffering from some “thorn in his side” from which he prayed for deliverance and did not receive it.  Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. ” Romans 5:3-5

The Chaplain was right that “life is messy” and sometimes “gunk” does just get thrown our way and as believers in Christ He does help us through those messy, gunky times.  But Claire knew she was right too and for her it confirmed a foundation of her faith in God.  God allows things in our lives that are messy and painful “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28.

Claire realized that God doesn’t call us to go through hard times for no reason.  Sometimes we bring upon ourselves a consequence from our sin that is painful.  Sometimes other people act and the consequences from their actions (sins) cause us pain.  Yes, sometimes life just gets all gunked up.  But God does allow suffering in our lives for a purpose.  Maybe to strengthen our own faith or someone else’s; maybe it is to build our character or to teach us perseverance or maybe we won’t know the reason until we are in Heaven and somehow then, Claire doesn’t think it will matter then at all.

However, for now, Claire knows to think that her suffering is just life’s gunk Jesus gets her through diminishes her hope.  So with all due respect to Meg, Claire will continue to believe God has a purpose for all things in her life, even the suffering.

Judas Visited Me This Week

One of the greatest things to me about God’s Word is the constant reminders that God uses ordinary people through which He works in unbelievable ways.  Judas Iscariot is one of those people which we have a snippet of information on but who had a pivotal role in our lives as believers today.  Many of us we are uncomfortable with Judas.  We often judge him harshly.  (Though it is NOT our jobs to judge him, nor anyone else, for that matter.)

I am guilty of thinking “How could Judas?  He was one of the especially picked disciples of Jesus.  He walked with, traveled with, ate with, and experienced the physical presence of Our Savior daily before betraying Him.  Not just any garden variety betrayal either, a betrayal that led to Jesus’ death by crucifixion.”

Then I squirm in my self-appointed judge’s chair for truthfully, Judas’ makes me uncomfortable because I see myself in him.

In searching the scriptures concerning information on Judas some things jumped out at me:

  1. In Matthew 10:1-4; Mark 3:14-19; and Luke 6:12-16 Jesus sends out the twelve disciples and in Matthew’s account Jesus’ gave to the disciples gifts to help and heal those people they came in contact with – there is no mention in either account that Judas was left out of Jesus’ directive, given a different set of instructions or given lesser gifts than those Jesus gave the other eleven disciples.  He gave them all what they would need to fulfill their mission from and for Him.
  2. Matthew 26:14-15; Mark 14:10-50; Luke 22:1-22, 47-48 in these scriptures we’re told that Judas went to the chief priests and ASKED what they would give him to betray Jesus.  Also we learn that Judas ASKED Jesus at the Passover meal if it would be him would betray Jesus.  Judas asked, Jesus said yes. 
  3. Matthew 27:1-10 and Acts 1:16-25 tell us that Judas, overcome with grief and remorse for how he had condemned Jesus, goes out and kills himself.  The 30 pieces of silver the chief priests gave him for his betrayal was used to buy a field for use as a burial ground and given the name Akeldama which means “field of blood”.  Matthew also tells us Judas tried to return the money but the chief priests would not take it back.
  4. John’s account of Judas and of his betrayal is different a bit.  The kiss Judas gave to Jesus isn’t mentioned (John 18:2-11).  In John 6:60-71 we are told that Jesus knew even in selecting Judas to be his disciple Jesus knew Judas would be His betrayer.  John 12:1-17 lets us know Judas is also a thief, helping himself to the group’s funds in the money bag he was entrusted with when he wanted.  Finally John also tells us that Jesus tells Judas that what he is about to do he should go and do quickly.  Judas finishes his meal and goes.  (John 13:1-30)
  5. John also lets us know that despite Jesus knowing all along Judas would betray Him Jesus didn’t treat Judas differently.  At the Passover Supper when Jesus washed the disciples feet there is no mention that Jesus excluded Judas.

I learned a lot about betrayal this week.

Like Judas this person has been a friend to me.  One I would have trusted my life with instantly if the need arose.  Someone that even when reality was staring at me in the face my heart could not comprehend could be responsible for not just stealing something very valuable entrusted to me but who would do so by taking advantage of my physical needs as an amputee.  Furthermore, this person, who before had been a factor in helping me feel safe and capable in one senseless act rendered me back to square one all over again.

Working in a counseling office, though not as a counselor, and having participated in therapy myself through the years, I’ve learned enough to know emotionally I am cycling through the “phases” of being a victim.  I’d like to plow through them and get to the other side but my humanity gets in the way.

For every other awful betrayal in my life comes back to whisper it’s reminders in my heart.  Like the fiancé’ in college who promised to love me forever but who took my money and married another woman.  The doctors who I entrusted to diagnosis and treat me who couldn’t see beyond a number on a scale and see the damaged lymph nodes earlier, who could have bought me more time with a whole body, but who didn’t.  The kids in school who were one day my friends and the next taunting and ridiculing me to the point I would hid in the bathroom to cry.  Another man who promised many things and delivered lies, shadows and mind numbing pain.  The father’s discipline that became life endangering…it’s hard to move on when something like this slams you in the face.

Yet I remind myself, Jesus knew Judas!  God’s Word tells us He knows us before He knits us together in our mother’s womb, that He knows the very number of hairs on our heads (and the number that float down the shower drain each morning).  No exception was made for Judas.  God didn’t not know him because of what Judas would choose to do to betray Him, God knew Judas as well as He knows me because Judas too was a creation of Our Father.   God knew Judas as well as He knows you.

God gifted mankind with the freedom of making our own choices.  We can choose to cultivate a relationship with Him or not.  We can choose to walk in ways that honor and obey Him or not.  We make our choices.  We also have to deal with the consequences.  Sadly, all of us are Judas’ at various times in our lives.  We betray Jesus.  We betray one another.  We betray those we love the most.  We even betray ourselves.  We choose.  We sin.  We hurt others, ourselves and Jesus.  It is OUR choice… Judas chose…I choose…you choose.

Perhaps that is the most bitter of pills to swallow.  People who betray us CHOOSE to do so.   Why?

Does it really matter?  Had I known this person needed anything I had I would have given it.  They didn’t give me that choice.

I’ve long believed that anyone of us has within us the capacity to do the unthinkable under the circumstances.  Would I harm someone who had my child or husband in harm’s way?  I know I would.  That scenario is the extreme.

Does it help how I feel that perhaps whatever the circumstances in my betrayer’s life that led to their making this decision seemed to them the extreme?  No, not really, but the wonderful thing is, God is working on that with me.  I pause to pray even now that God moves me out of the way so He can to advance quickly to forgiveness, otherwise I betray my Savior again.

I surely can’t say I’m at a place of “forgiveness” yet, or understanding and it’s hard to even want to be in that place.  But going there is a requirement.  I must get there and I must come through for the other betrayal experiences taught me that holding on to the pain and anger and hate destroys only one person – and that person is me and the relationship it destroys is the one I have with my Creator.

Good from Wicked

The nerve endings pills make me groggy,  even at half dosage keeping a train of thought from derailing is difficult.  Plus at half it doesn’t work as quickly or thoroughly.  I’d been refusing them unless I had a really bad occupational or physical therapy session,  I was paying a high price for it too!

I had my left leg amputated above the knee on Friday, June 3 and here I am on Sunday, June 19 barely able to keep my eyes open and the leg and phantom pains dragging me towards a place I do not want to go – self-pity.  Time for self-pity was years and years ago.

“Back in the day” when women were still more property than partners, full-time caregivers, maids, taxi cab drivers etx…many knew the sting of a hand across their face, the wrenching of their arms, the ever-present reminder of who was “the boss”.  Most of the time their children knew it too.  They cowered in fear or stood in defiance as the belt whooshed through the loops and slapping of leather on leather and as well as the command, “Come here girl (boy”)!”

I was one the lucky ones, my dad never used his fists or tree limbs on us, just the belt.  I was one of the defiant ones.  As soon as I figured out what he wanted was for me to cry, beg and plea for him to stop the sooner he stopped.  In my mind I determined NOT to give him what he wanted if I could withstand it.  So where lies the fault for the soft-tissue damage that damaged the lymph node system that led me to an amputation?

My brother and I believed no knew what we were enduring until daddy’s death in February of 2009 but turns out they did but back then you didn’t report such things.  For a while I was bitter but then came the time forgiveness was the only way out of the prison I lived in.  It wasn’t easy and God and I had many wrestling matches over it.  With God though, I forgave.  I can be a determined woman when I have to be but I would NEVER have chosen to have willingly forgiven the man I called “Daddy” if God had not been alive within me and commanded it of me for I did it on His strength not my own.

I’ve chosen to be a different type of parent to my child.  I speak up and let someone know when I suspect abuse behind firmly closed doors.  I work in a profession that gives me some sense of “helping” to ease/end the problem of child/spouse abuse.  God uses all things for His purpose and glory when we step aside.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been

called according to his purpose.”  – Romans 8:28 (N.I.V.)